B21 is pumped about the release of The Song, both the movie and accompanying resources. If you’re not familiar with the project, clink on the link and check it out, or read the letter below from Kyle Idleman about it’s usefulness in your life and ministry.
Dear Fellow Pastor,
If you’re like me, you’ve given a lot of relationship advice over the years. Whether it’s someone who’s interested in dating but doesn’t know how to do that in a way that honors God, or an engaged couple who want to build their marriage on a firm foundation but haven’t had a good example of what that looks like, or a newly married couple struggling with conflict, or someone ready to quit and throw in the towel on their marriage. We’ve all sat across from someone struggling with these areas of their lives, and we’ve tried to teach them what God’s word says about these things, because we know that God knows best. He is the author and designer of love, sex and marriage. But sometimes it’s hard to connect people’s current issues with the ancient stories of Scripture.
That’s why I partnered with City on a Hill Studio to produce The Song– a modern-day adaptation of the life of Solomon that helps couples connect their story to God’s word. The Song is a feature film releasing nationwide in theatres September 26 and a full like on church resources — including a Small Group Study, Pastor’s Kit and Couple’s Devotional — that deal honestly with real-world relationship issues like dating, romance, intimacy, conflict, restoration and cultivating true commitment. You and I know these areas belong to God and our culture is desperate to rediscover what He had in mind when He created marriage and love between a man and a woman.
So I’m writing to you to ask you to view the movie and review the study resources. Pass them along to your leaders. Consider how you could use them to minister to and encourage both the couples and singles in your church and community and bring grace and hope to their relationships. Many pastors are buying out showtimes and are preaching sermon series around the topics. Others are encouraging their church members and small groups to use the movie and study to engage their neighbors and friends, not only on the subject of marriage but, more importantly, on the subject of their faith.
As ministers, it’s our desire to see couples thriving, to see love awakened and to see Christ glorified. It is my prayer that The Song materials will help accomplish these ends.
Teaching Pastor, Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY
As we all wrestle with how we view our job as a Christian, undoubtedly important questions arise. In this post Benjamin Quinn both asks some of those questions and offers helpful resources for pastors and laypeople alike. Let’s continue the discussion and all seek to redeem our understanding of work in light of the gospel.
What is work? Does it matter to God? How do these forty or more hours each week relate to our faith?
Our pews are filled with workers who ask these kinds of questions. Pastors, even the most attuned and sympathetic, often struggle to provide answers beyond “work hard, tell the truth, and share the Gospel when possible.” Hard work, truth telling, and evangelism are indeed critical for Christian workers, but could there be more to our work and its relationship to our faith?
What if God created us to be workers whose purpose and personhood somehow come together when we rightly engage with creation? How was work different before Genesis 3, and where do we see sin’s effects today? How might we redirect sin’s effects on our work toward proper ends? Further, how does our work today relate to the new heavens and earth?
The purpose of this post is simply to raise these questions, and offer a handful of resources I’ve found helpful on the topic. Below are books, lectures, videos, and websites worth perusing. An asterisk is placed beside those I recommend to start with.
As we continue in our work, may we, as our Lord said, “work for the food that endures to eternal life.” (Jn 6:27)
*Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. Boston: Dutton Adult, 2012.
Gene Veith, God at Work. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011.
*Lester Dekoster, Work; The Meaning of Your Life. Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2010.
Amy Sherman, Kingdom Calling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011.
Hugh Whelchel, How Then Should We Work? Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2012.
*Dorothy Sayers, Why Work? (an essay) http://www.faith-at-work.net/Docs/WhyWork.pdf
Tom Nelson, Work Matters. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011.
Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.
J.D. Greear, “Work as Worship,” www.rightnow.org
Tim Keller, “Humanizing Work,” http://www.faithandwork.com/conference-audio/
Lois Kehlenbrink, “How the Gospel Prepares Your Heart for Work,” http://www.faithandwork.com/how-the-gospel-prepares-your-heart-for-work/
Tim Lubinus is the new Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. His vision is to get the state convention to a 50/50 split of CP dollars even if that means sacrifice at the local level. We are grateful for Tim’s leadership in this area and pray that this mindset takes root across our conventions. Tim was kind enough to give us this interview.
When I was with the IMB and on furlough in the States, I sometimes felt like people in churches were given the impression that most Cooperative Program funds went to the IMB. At that time in our state of Iowa, only about ten percent of Cooperative Program funds made it to the IMB. I later learned the percentage was only slightly better in other states. I’d like the Baptist Convention of Iowa to change from sending twenty percent to fifty percent to the Executive Committee as quickly as possible.
I’d answer this question like I would counsel someone who was learning to tithe. At times sacrifice is required for the greater good of the kingdom of God. I’d talk about ways to increase income and decrease expenses. Then I’d encourage him to give ten percent as quickly as possible, even if it means he has to decrease his own spending.
I think that giving half is a good target for state conventions to adequately contribute to international and domestic missions, seminaries, and state convention ministries. I don’t have chapter and verse on this, but like the tithe, I think percentage giving is a good discipline for anyone. If conventions don’t have a fifty percent anchor, there will likely be a budget shortfall, special project, or other temptation to justify increasing the amount that stays in the state. I hope that when Iowa churches discover that more of their funds are going to national and international mission efforts, they will be excited about giving even more generously to the Cooperative Program. When state conventions give more generously to the executive committee this will also give less incentive for churches go around the state conventions to send funds directly to the Executive Committee or to designate extra funds to special missions offerings. If we believe that the Cooperative Program is the best system, let’s use it.
I don’t think we need a new structure, just a streamlined and focused one. I’d like to move from a “one-stop shop” for any church need and focus on fewer strategic ministries of higher intensity and quality. With the internet, state conventions have less need to be an information hub for churches than they did twenty years ago. Lifeway and NAMB are more user friendly and state conventions need fewer staff to accomplish their core missions. Also churches connect more relationally and less geographically than they used to; this is transforming the mission and structure of associations.
I can’t speak for other conventions, but in Iowa the convention is needed to provide identity and connection for churches in the state. We learn in the New Testament that churches felt the need to connect to one another relationally and also to pool resources for cooperative ministry. In our context there are several key ministries that can be done best at the state convention level rather than the church, association, regional, or national level. These include partnering with churches to place and support church planters in priority cities, community center ministry in difficult neighborhoods, disaster relief, supporting and encouraging pastors, some types of training, and more. We are too big geographically to be an association and too small to financially support enough directors of missions without defunding our national missions agencies. More here.
State conventions are uniquely positioned to connect churches with one another. State conventions also have distinctive opportunity to pool resources to identify, prioritize, and resource strategic needs and population segments in a state for evangelism and church planting.
As for critiques of state conventions, I think it is essential for state convention leadership to constantly evaluate staff to make sure they have the right staff person in the right ministry. Sometimes organizations compromise their mission to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. This compromise tends to lower morale of other staff members and hurt the convention’s reputation for effective leadership.
In light of the recent publication of his latest book Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church, B21 has been running a series of posts from Matt Rogers, pastor of The Church at Cherrydale, on discipleship.
If you get a chance, check out his book as it is meant to provide a tool for people to take spiritual responsibility for others in the church. It also provides a one-year plan that is ideal for one-on-one disciple-making. You can order your copy of Aspire today at Seed Publishing Group.
Paul’s command to the church in Corinth causes many to cringe.
“I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Cor. 4:16)
He doesn’t just say it once, but his letters are laced throughout with this theme. In fact, he seemingly dares people to analyze his life and model their lives after the pattern that he sets.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who talk according to the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17)
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9)
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.” (1 Thess. 1:6)
The call to imitate the life of another Christian seems downright arrogant to modern readers. The replies are predictable:
The result is a culture increasingly dependent on fewer and fewer people to do the heavy-lifting of disciple-making. The church, by and large, is filled with passive consumers who are unwilling to take spiritual responsibility for the lives of others.
We need to be reminded that the command to “follow me as I follow Christ” is not a statement of arrogance but the natural outworking of the Spirit of God in the life of all of his church. Notice the progression in 1 Thess. 1:6-8:
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word with much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not saying anything.”
Paul and his team set an example for the church. The church imitated that example and become a model for other believers. The exemplary church provided a model for the watching world.
The basis for imitation rests not on some mythical threshold of spiritual maturity but rather on four critical factors:
Union with Christ. The call to imitation is predicated on the fact that Paul’s life was “in Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He was worthy of imitation to the extent that Paul’s life reflected the work of Christ in his heart. Imitation is a gift of God’s grace and not another task on a person’s religious to-do list.
Missionary Living. Imitation requires relational proximity with those far from God. Everywhere he went Paul declared and demonstrated the gospel to those far from God. This model set the basis for imitation – “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). A cloistered spirituality, increasingly distant from those far from God, will not provide the relationships necessary for imitation.
A Transforming Heart. Paul avoided placing himself on a pedestal, but rather took on the form of a servant, claiming to be the chief of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Perfection was not the basis for his call to imitation. A frail instrument being transformed by the grace of God is perfectly positioned to be a model for others to follow. This person’s strengths and weaknesses, gifts and faults, successes and sins should set a model for a life transformed by the gospel.
A Loving Relationship. Finally, imitation thrives in the context of long-term, loving relationships. Paul’s letters are filled with fatherly emotion for his churches. He writes, “So, being anxiously desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). As a spiritual father he longed for Christ to be formed in the people whom he loved (Gal. 4:19). In the context of loving relationships imitation feels less like authoritarian arrogance and more like loving parenting.
Our day needs more spiritual role models like Paul. I met with another college student this week who had been a believer for nearly a decade and said, “I have never had an older man help me learn how to walk with Jesus.” Sadly, his statement is the norm rather than the exception. The only way this will change is if more and more people follow Paul’s model and say to others “follow me as I follow Christ.”
One day during my seminary training, I was sitting in a theology class at a school that just 15 years earlier had been influenced by liberal theology – a school where faculty members questioned biblical inerrancy and the exclusivity of the gospel. Thankfully, the SBC had fought “The Battle for the Bible” starting in 1979 and this school had returned to the faith of its founders. But, my theology prof said something on that particular day that I’ll never forget: “The Battle for the Bible didn’t start in 1979. It began in Eden’s garden, and it won’t end until Jesus returns.”
Wise leaders have told me repeatedly that our generation will have to fight for the Bible, and I’ve been reminded of those prophetic warnings in recent days by two key figures in the evangelical world.
First, Andy Stanley tweeted a link to an article where a young lady who has renounced Christianity talks about how much she misses being a Born-Again Christian. Along with the link, Stanley tweeted, “Why we must teach the next generation the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”
Second, Christian singer Gungor is drifting from biblical orthodoxy. He doesn’t believe the early accounts in Genesis are historical, or that there was an Adam or an Eve or a global flood. Ken Ham pointed out that Jesus referenced Adam and Noah as historical people, to which Gungor replied that even if Jesus was wrong about the historicity of Adam and Noah that wouldn’t deny the divinity of Christ. Ken Ham responded again, and then he gives a screenshot of a Facebook comment where Gungor writes, “There is a trend in modern society, no more than a trend…a religion, an idolatry that elevates Scripture above Jesus.”
So, Stanley and Gungor seek to drive a wedge between the Bible and the person and work of Jesus. Stanley says the Bible is not the foundation of our faith, but rather an event. Gungor says that people elevate the Bible over Jesus and thereby worship it as an idol. The problem, though, is that we don’t know about the person or the saving event of the gospel except for the book! Any attempt to divorce Jesus’ person or work from the book is impossible because we wouldn’t know about these things without it! My dad tweeted Stanley after his tweet and said, “You do not know the event apart from The Book & the divinely inspired understanding of the event. You know this Andy.”
Honestly, none of this is new. Liberalism has sought to do that for hundreds of years. The impulse behind liberalism was never really to destroy Christianity; liberalism wanted to rescue Christianity from things that the modern mind couldn’t accept. It was in many ways well intentioned – as Stanley is well intentioned in his concern that this lady’s modern objections to the Bible caused her to walk away from Christianity and as Gungor is well intentioned to interpret the Bible through modern scientific analysis.
However, much would be gained if every “evangelical” Christian would sit down and read a book that was written nearly 100 years ago – J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. Machen was battling for the Bible a long time ago and what he wrote was prophetic in his day and is still prophetic in ours. In his book, Machen destroys any notion that Christianity can survive if one divorces the Bible from the person or work of Jesus. His basic premise is that any belief system that would do that ceases to be Christian and is instead something else entirely. He writes, “For Christianity depends, not on a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event” (70), and that narration is found in the Bible.
Here are some things in Machen that are instructive for our modern debates:
Machen wrote that the trouble with liberalism, which sought to elevate Jesus over the Bible, was “that our Lord Himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected” (75). So, Machen points out that “the modern liberal does not hold fast even to the authority of Jesus. Certainly he does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels. For among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are most abhorrent to the modern liberal church…Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process. The critical process is certainly very difficult, and the suspicion often arises that the critic is retaining as genuine words of the historical Jesus only those words which conform to his own preconceived ideas” (77).
Machen wrote these words nearly a hundred years ago, but it is still the case that some modern Christians jettison or re-interpret things in the Bible that don’t conform to their preconceived ideas. This is exactly what Gungor is doing by jettisoning the early accounts of Genesis. Machen writes, “It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men” (79).
Machen was clear that the events of the gospel were not enough to save; the re-telling of the events and the interpretation of that narration were necessary for saving faith. He writes, “The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried’ – that is history. ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’ – that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church” (emphasis mine; 29).
But, Machen anticipated the objection that we can free ourselves from this and appeal to Jesus Himself. Let’s go “Back to Christ” (29-30). In that day there were those who wanted to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Bible. He gives their objection, “Should not our trust be in a Person rather than in a message?” (39). But, he responds with the problem in that view, “The plain fact is that Jesus of Nazareth died these nineteen hundred years ago. It was possible for the men of Galilee in the first century to trust Him…But we are separated by nineteen centuries from the One who alone could give us aid. How can we bridge the gulf of time that separates us from Jesus?” His answer is the New Testament (39-45). He says that Jesus and the Bible are under attack, but we cannot know the Savior apart from the Bible!
Again, Machen writes, “From the beginning, the Christian gospel…consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. ‘Christ died’ – that is history; ‘Christ died for our sins’ – that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity” (27). If we divorce the person and work of Jesus from the book that tells us about who He is and what He did, then we no longer have Christianity.
Saying the foundation of our faith is an event – the cross and empty tomb – not a book can sound right, but we have to think a little more deeply and say to ourselves, “I wouldn’t know about that glorious cross and that empty grave without The Book!” Saying let’s elevate Jesus above our Bibles is true enough, but the only Jesus we know is the one to whom all the Scriptures point! So, don’t give up your Bibles because without them you don’t have Jesus, and if you don’t have Jesus, that’s Hell. Christianity is based on a book and Machen challenged us nearly 100 years ago, “Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing…Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s word is life” (78).